I’ve gotta say, I’m really looking forward to my free copy of Thomas Lukaszuk’s tell-all book about how he tried to save the Redford Government but the premier just wouldn’t let him. A great review is almost guaranteed!
Seriously, I’m assuming this literary endeavor means Mr. Lukaszuk has decided he doesn’t have much of a career in the government of Premier Jim Prentice. At any rate, it seems unlikely he will after the publication of A Burning Bridge Too Far, Mistakes Were Made, Hair Care Tips for Men, or whatever it is he decides to call his forthcoming volume.
As alert readers of this blog will recall, even those with very short memories, Mr. Lukaszuk was fired-premier Alison Redford’s deputy premier and confrontational point man on big fights with public service unions and bigger cuts to post-secondary education. He also served as MLA for the Edmonton-Castle Downs riding under premiers Ralph Klein, Ed Stelmach and Dave Hancock.
Later, when he ran against Mr. Prentice for the leadership of what was left of the Progressive Conservative government after Ms. Redford got finished with it, he recast himself as a representative of the party’s progressive wing and suggested that the funding cuts, which hit Edmonton’s University of Alberta particularly hard, weren’t his idea.
When Mr. Prentice was sworn in as unelected premier earlier this week, he appointed challenger Ric McIver to cabinet, notwithstanding the attack ads the Calgary MLA ran in the last days of the leadership campaign, but he pointedly assigned Mr. Lukaszuk to the party’s distant back benches despite the fact he’d run a vigorous and entertaining campaign.
The Canadian Press reported this morning that Mr. Lukaszuk, who came to Canada from Poland as a child, is about to write a “behind the scenes” book on his years in the Tory Government, especially under the leadership of Ms. Redford. No publication date has been set.
“Lukaszuk says there is a lot to the Redford era people don’t know about, including the Tory politicians who tried to stand up and fight her spending scandals,” said the CP’s earnest reporter. Those people who tried to fight her scandalous behaviour, presumably, will include Mr. Lukaszuk.
The CP story also dropped hints we’ll learn more from Mr. Lukaszuk about how Ms. Redford “spent lavishly on herself, bullied subordinates and threw temper tantrums.” This is bound to be highly entertaining.
Presumably Mr. Lukaszuk will pass more lightly over the statements by civil servants’ union president Guy Smith that his confrontational approach resulted in “a huge amount of mistrust and lack of respect.” A ruling by a superior court early this year in the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees’ successful effort to get an injunction against Bill 46, which Mr. Lukaszuk had championed although it was technically introduced by then finance minister Doug Horner, tended to give credence to Mr. Smith’s interpretation of events.
With his political career now on the skids, Mr. Lukaszuk obviously decided a literary turn was just the thing to revive his fortunes. While he represents a northwest Edmonton riding in the Legislature, Mr. Lukaszuk resides in the bedroom suburb of St. Albert, which is represented by Independent former Conservative MP Brent Rathgeber.
Mr. Rathgeber has recently written a book of his own – Irresponsible Government: The Decline of Parliamentary Democracy in Canada – an effort that has received constant coverage in the local free weekly newspapers, notwithstanding a less-than-well-known publisher. So Mr. Lukaszuk would have had an example of the next step he could take showing up in his mailbox every couple of days.
To those who suggest that Mr. Lukaszuk’s writing style – which so far as we know up to now has been restricted to frequent and often cantankerous Tweets – may leave something to be desired, I say nonsense. At any rate, he has a trained journalist, likely a capable ghostwriter and editor, in his own household.
Readers are invited to submit suggested titles for Mr. Lukaszuk’s future doorstopper to Alberta Diary.
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Ordinary Albertans deserve the credit for killing Bills 9 and 10
The neoliberal attack on fair pensions is guaranteed to continue, but working people in Alberta can nevertheless celebrate a victory with the Prentice Government’s decision today to climb down from the Redford Government’s unwarranted attack on both public and private sector pensions.
Have no doubt, this change happened because of determined political action by affected citizens – workers with modest pensions and their family members – who ensured their MLAs knew what they thought of the attack on their retirement savings and what the likely consequences would be in the next general election.
In normal times, this might not have had much impact in Alberta. But these are not normal times, and the consequences were potentially quite severe for MLAs in Premier Jim Prentice’s Progressive Conservative Party who won narrowly in 2012 in many ridings throughout the province.
The fact a steady stream of working people had been visiting their constituency offices to express their anger and dismay at Bill 9, the Public Sector Pension Plans Amendment Act, and Bill 10, the Employment Pension (Private Sector) Plans Amendment Act, was a major contributing factor in the unprecedented decision of the PC caucus to fire premier Alison Redford in March.
There is no doubt as well that it played a big part in Mr. Prentice’s decision to cashier former finance minister Doug Horner from cabinet after the central role he played in the push to turn public sector pensions from defined benefit to “target benefit” plans, and allow private corporations to convert pension plans at will into “defined contribution” plans in which retired employees must bear all the risks.
A terse press release from the government yesterday morning noted that Bills 9 and 10 would die on the order paper when the current sitting of the Legislature was prorogued. The release noted that a new session will begin with a Throne Speech on Nov. 17.
Most observers were pretty certain that would happen anyway. What was really interesting was that the news release also promised “Bills 9 and 10 will not be introduced under the Prentice Government.”
Count on it that certain self-styled commentators on tax issues – some of whom may have an interest in running for other conservative political parties – to respond with a certain amount of anger, even hysteria, to this announcement.
Assume as well that the corporate-financed organized right will continue its campaign against secure retirements for all working people. I expect we can stand by for announcements and “studies” from the likes of the Fraser Institute and the Canadian Taxpayers Federation momentarily.
In the mean time, though, ordinary Albertans can congratulate themselves on a job well done. And small business people in the communities where they live – if they’re actually paying attention – should be grateful that the money will continue to be spent locally, instead of shipped offshore to corporate tax shelters.
This post also appears on Rabble.ca.